Arab designers shine on Oscars 2020 red carpet

Youssra wearing Zuhair Murad at the 2020 Oscars. AFP
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Updated 10 February 2020

Arab designers shine on Oscars 2020 red carpet

DUBAI: The Oscars ceremony, now in its 92nd year, was once again held at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, California, bringing with it a drove of celebrities who descended upon the red carpet on Hollywood Boulevard wearing their finest threads to acknowledge and celebrate their peers in film and television.  The Oscars are one of the most-watched red carpets in the world, meaning the stakes are high for stars to bring their fashion A-game, and they did not disappoint.

Youssra wearing Zuhair Murad at the 2020 Oscars. AFP

Representing the region was iconic Egyptian superstar Youssra, who arrived at the ceremony on Sunday evening wearing an ivory-colored Zuhair Murad gown with caped sleeves. The Lebanese designer was also responsible for creating the sheer black, gold-embellished design worn by British television presenter Carly Steel and American model Molly Sims’ long-sleeve plunging number on the red carpet.

Sandra Oh wearing Elie Saab at the 2020 Oscars. AFP

Meanwhile, Canadian-Korean actress Sandra Oh looked to the House of Elie Saab to dress her for the occasion, choosing a statement, pale pink ruffled confection with larger-than-life, tulle shoulders that was plucked hot from the Lebanese designer’s most recent couture runway, which he showcased last month in Paris.

Lilliana Vazquez wearing Rami Kadi at the 2020 Oscars. AFP

Elsewhere on the red carpet, E! News hosts Giuliana Rancic and Lilliana Vazquez both chose designs from the region for the biggest ceremony of the year. Rancic stunned in a flaming red, feather-embellished creation with zipper detailing from Omani couture label Atelier Zuhra, while Vazquez chose a long, strapless beaded dress from Beirut-born designer Rami Kadi.

Waad Al-Khateab wearing Reem Masi at the 92nd Academy Awards. AFP

And although Waad al-Khateab’s Syrian war documentary “For Sama” did not win the golden statuette for best documentary feature, her dress from fellow Syrian designer Reem Masri, which read in Arabic “We dared to dream and we will not regret dignity,” proved that you don’t need to take home an award to be a winner.

Scarlett Johansson wearing Oscar de la Renta on the 2020 Oscars red carpet. AFP

Other memorable looks include Penelope Cruz’s archival Chanel creation from the 1995 haute couture collection and Scarlett Johansson in a transparent corseted Oscar de la Renta design.  “Black Swan” star Natalie Portman made a feminist statement in Dior’s ethereal embroidered cape with the names of female directors overlooked by the Academy— including Greta Gerwig of “Little Women”— stitched into the fabric.

Natalie Portman wears Dior at the 92nd Academy Awards. AFP

Meanwhile, the push for sustainability was apparent via chic pieces like “Bombshell” star and best supporting actress nominee Margot Robbie’s vintage Chanel spring 1994 couture gown that boasted a jewel pendant and cuff sleeves that were completely detached from the strapless navy dress. “Booksmart” star Kaitlyn Dever also used the red carpet to to promote more eco-friendly practices in the industry by donning a crimson Louis Vuitton dress made with the Red Carpet Green Dress (RCGD) sustainable standards in mind. 

Jane Fonda, 82,  took to the stage in a recycled, crimson beaded Elie Saab gown she previously wore to Cannes in 2014, to present the best film award.

Margot Robbie wearing vintage Chanel at the 2020 Oscars. AFP

Film review: Great storytelling makes for fascinating watch in Netflix’s ‘Yeh Ballet’

“Yeh Ballet” is no rags-to-riches story, but one of sheer fortitude and a bit of luck. (Supplied)
Updated 24 February 2020

Film review: Great storytelling makes for fascinating watch in Netflix’s ‘Yeh Ballet’

CHENNAI: Sooni Taraporevala gained immense fame by writing for Mira Nair’s films, such as “The Namesake,” “Mississippi Masala” and the Oscar-nominated “Salaam Bombay.” In 2009, Taraporevala stepped behind the camera to helm a small movie called “Little Zizou” about the Parsi community. It was a hit, and three years ago, she took up the camera again to create a virtual reality short documentary about two boys from Mumbai’s slums who became renowned ballet dancers. 

Taraporevala converted her documentary into a full-length feature, “Yeh Ballet,” for Netflix, and the work, though with a somewhat documentary feel, is fascinating storytelling — a talent we have seen in her writings for Nair. 

Happily, “Yeh Ballet” is no rags-to-riches story (of the kind “Gully Boy” was), but one of sheer fortitude and a bit of luck. The film begins with a breathtaking aerial shot of the Arabian Ocean on whose shores Mumbai stands — an element that points toward the director’s background as a photographer. 

The film chronicles the lives of Nishu and Asif Beg. (Supplied) 

A story inspired by true events, “Yeh Ballet” chronicles the lives of Nishu (Manish Chauhan) and Asif Beg (newcomer Achintya Bose). The two lads are spotted by a ballet master, Saul Aaron (British actor Julian Sands) who, driven away from America because of his religion, lands in a Mumbai dance school.

Nishu and Asif, despite their nimble-footed ballet steps, find their paths paved with the hardest of obstacles. When foreign scholarships from famous ballet academies come calling, they cannot get a visa because they have no bank accounts. And while Asif’s father, dictated by his religion, is dead against the boy’s music and dancing, Nishu’s dad, a taxi driver, feels that his son’s passion is a waste of time and energy.

Well, all this ends well — as we could have guessed — but solid writing and imaginative editing along with Ankur Tewari’s curated music and the original score by Salvage Audio Collective turn “Yeh Ballet” into a gripping tale. It is not an easy task to transform a documentary into fiction, but Taraporevala does it with great ease. Or so it appears. Of course, the two protagonists add more than a silver lining to a movie that will be long remembered — the way we still mull over “Salaam Bombay” or “The Namesake.” But what I missed was a bit more ballet; the two guys are just wonderful to watch as they fly through the air.